Review: Tour De France 2015
Ah, the myriad joys of watching a painful, grueling slog through picturesque mountains. That will they/won’t they game of brinkmanship that occurs in the lead-up to sprint breakaways. The fascinating way teams co-ordinate their efforts, pushing their best rider through the rankings. The always amusing incident of the TV car causing a rider pile-up.
Yup, the Tour De France has provided multiple delights for sport fans, even those who are otherwise nonplussed about the two wheeled profession. As someone who occupies what I like to think of as a supporting, couch based role, I was delighted when Tour De France 2015 allowed me to continue my hard work promoting cycling from the comfort of my own lodgings.
The game is aimed very much at the hardcore, simulation end of the sports market and so cycling enthusiasts will be at a distinct advantage when playing the game. Everybody else will just have to catch up at their own pace. Which is not to say that the game doesn’t offer a tutorial mode. Warm-Up mode covers basics such as changing up through the gears and riding out of the saddle, but the finer points of enduring the punishing Tour are absent and must to be learned via costly mistakes and frustrating setbacks. You really have to be prepared to put in the time to learn what the technical jargon means. As a result, this is one of those games where reading the glossary of terms is a good idea.
The presentation is perfunctory all round. The rider animations can help you guess what the AI is going to do next and the sound is comprised of in-game effects only. You do get to hear bland, inoffensive music at the menu screens but since you won’t be spending much time there it is of little consequence.
One of the excellent aspects of TDF 2015 is the vocal communication from your team manager. The voice acting here is urgent, emotive and successful in getting the point across. Unfortunately the game doesn‘t apply that level of efficiency to the visuals. The HUD is unobtrusive but at the same time has a lot of different elements that can be hard to find in a pinch and are not easily identifiable, unless you’ve read the glossary of course.
As you peddle your way through what looks like a picture-postcard version of Europe you’ll be subjected to a variety of stages, ranging from sprint sections to 83 kilometre slogs. Whilst the sprint stages always have the against-the-clock element to keep a reasonable level of excitement flowing, the problem with the longer races is that by their very nature, they ebb and flow. Sure, there will be times when you are chasing down a breakaway group or making a move of your own. But there will also be times when your riders just don’t have that much to do. Even switching between the different riders on your team can’t help alleviate the tedium.
There are options to improve your cycling team, a standard versus mode and a condensed version of the Tour. This mode is thankfully less full on in terms of the overall time required to complete stages. The degree of difficulty remains the same however, and that is a problem. Because it goes for the most accurate representation of cycling TDF 2015 comes with a built-in difficulty curve that will probably alienate a general audience and will likely cause consternation in any gamers looking to try something a bit different.
To sum up
Tour de France 2015 can be admired for its dedication to the ins and outs of cycling, but in failing to recognise that accuracy and fun can go together it finds itself riding with a flat tyre.
Version reviewed: PS4
Tour de France 2015 is out now on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, PlayStation 3 and PC.